About Us. .Background.. Bio – John Fisher. .Bio – Kim Vance. .Bio – Sheherezade Kara
Since 2003, ARC International has been advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. ARC plays a unique role in facilitating strategic planning around LGBT issues internationally, strengthening global networks, and enhancing access to UN mechanisms. We are the only organization with a full-time presence in Geneva committed to advancing LGBT issues within the UN human rights system, and have played a key role in the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. We have been successful in engaging the support of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ensuring that the records of all UN States on LGBT issues are subjected to international scrutiny, and bringing international support to the work of NGOs in countries around the world. This document outlines our development, main achievements and vision for the future.
ARC’s Vision and Approach
ARC International believes that all human beings have the right to celebrate who they are, with freedom, dignity and respect.
Unfortunately, the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons are routinely abused, with little commitment by many States or UN bodies to develop or implement standards to address these recurring human rights violations. Abuses identified by UN Special Procedures include use of the death penalty for homosexuality, attacks on peaceful LGBT equality marches, and transgender people beaten by police, burnt with cigarettes and raped, as well as targeting of human rights defenders and discrimination in accessing economic, social, and cultural rights such as education, health care and housing.
ARC International advances recognition of human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity at the international level. We promote the articulation of clear international norms, and mobilize international and domestic pressure when governments fail to live up to these standards. We create global networks to ensure that groups and individuals working on these issues do so not in isolation, but as part of an effective, coordinated international movement. We strengthen mechanisms for monitoring, documenting and reporting human rights violations, and create opportunities for leading international and domestic stakeholders to work effectively together to advance clearly-articulated strategic goals.
ARC International is federally-incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in Canada, with a full-time staff presence in Canada and Geneva. We are constituted to receive charitable grants in the United States, and use a community leadership development model, built on the concept of distributed leadership and collaborative research, to realize our goals.
ARC’s main areas of focus include:
• international strategic planning, coalition development, movement development, coordination, fostering collaborations;
• UN advocacy;
• connecting NGOs with international mechanisms, making UN mechanisms accessible, acting as a ‘bridge’ between the UN and activities on the ground;
• developing tools, best practices, resources, guides etc, to strengthen local and regional movements.
Background and key achievements
ARC International incorporated in 2003 as a project-driven organization based in Canada. Prior to our incorporation, we conducted a needs assessment to identify gaps in the landscape of international LGBT organizing.
One of our first major initiatives was to co-sponsor an international strategic consultation in Rio de Janeiro bringing together key stakeholders from all regions of the world in support of a Brazilian resolution on sexual orientation and human rights at the United Nations. This initiative went beyond just strategizing about a particular advocacy opportunity. It also marked the beginning of an enhanced level of international cooperation and movement-building. One of the outcomes of that consultation was the launch of ARC’s sexual orientation and gender identity listserv which has been become a vital tool for strategic engagement and networking internationally, linking hundreds of activists from all geographic regions.
The next couple of years saw an increase in visibility and credibility. ARC prepared a major brief on sexual orientation issues internationally, and participated in the 6-week Commission on Human Rights, engaging with governments and working to support NGO coalition activities. We organized a second consultation (International Dialogue) in Geneva, which was able to enhance the capacity of many NGOs in terms of engagement with UN mechanisms. We were also responsible for establishing an ongoing connection between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and international LGBT organizations.
In 2005, we relocated one of our Co-Directors to Geneva, coinciding with the decision of the UN to establish a new Human Rights Council as a year-round standing body. Although other organizations have considered similar action, and despite our support for such initiatives, we remain the only organization with a full-time presence in Geneva dedicated to LGBT issues. This presence has substantially enhanced our ability to engage on an ongoing basis with the UN human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council, the Special Procedures, the treaty bodies and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We were instrumental in conceiving, drafting and implementing a joint statement on sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights, which was delivered in 2006 by Norway on behalf of 54 States from 4 of the 5 UN regions. This represents the largest-ever UN statement on these issues and the first to include gender identity, and has laid the foundation for a further joint statement with an even greater base of support, to be delivered by France at the General Assembly in December, 2008 as part of the 60th Anniversary celebrations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
ARC has also campaigned in support of providing ECOSOC accreditation to LGBT NGOs, thus increasing the presence and visibility of LGBT issues in the work of the UN. We have run training programs on LGBT rights, hosted cross-regional International Dialogues on an annual basis, and used the new Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the Human Rights Council to liaise with national-level NGOs, raise LGBT issues and secure commitments from States in every region of the world.
ARC has also played a key role in the various phases of the Yogyakarta Principles. We initiated the project, convened a coalition of NGOs to implement it, facilitated meetings of the coalition, worked closely on the preparations for and conduct of the experts’ meeting, worked with partners to successfully launch the Principles, prepared backgrounders and advocacy materials to support regional launch initiatives, developed a website, track the ongoing use of the Principles, are participating in the development of an activists’ guide, and conduct ongoing training and support for organizations using the Principles.
Although we have maintained the same vision/philosophy, and roughly the same goals since our inception, our initial activities tended to be project-driven and modest in scale. Five years later, it is clear that our unique vision and philosophy, along with our successes, have allowed us to grow as an organization beyond our initial expectations. We currently play a central role in international coordination, planning, enhancing capacity and advocacy. Our projects are increasingly long-term in nature and produce specific and concrete results while advancing a broader strategic vision. We have contributed to a measurable increase in awareness and recognition of our issues by UN bodies, developed a global coalition linking activists from every region of the world, and have provided support to groups and individuals seeking to address local challenges.
2009-2010 will be a pivotal period, as we move into the implementation phase of the UN human rights reform process, and work with NGOs to address the implications of these reforms for LGBT equality rights, build global support for the Yogyakarta Principles, and develop a coordinated strategic vision for advancing these issues through the years ahead.
Our Role and Impact
When ARC International celebrated its five-year anniversary in July 2008, we sent a note to our SOGI listserv marking the event, and thanking our partnering organizations and the movement on a whole for its work in advancing human rights in the last five years. The unsolicited response we got to this note was overwhelming, and gave us a true sense of our role and impact. Some examples are listed below:
• Dear Kim and John – I always have admired the work that you designed, planned and now are carrying out. It had been 5 years of other important forms of activism for the work in defense of our human rights at regional and international level. A kiss for both and is a pride to continue accompanying yours. Germán Humberto Rincón Perfetti, G&M de Colombia Abogados, Asociación Líderes en Acción
• Dear John and Kim – A very brief note to wish you both and Arc International, a very Happy 5th Birthday! I have enjoyed working with you over the last couple of years, have learned a great deal from you and have regarded your work very highly. I very much value our collaborative efforts and look forward to continued close work together. Best wishes, Sandeep Prasad, Action Canada for Population and Development
• John and Kim – Aside from your pleasing personalities, fun demeanors, and irreverent senses of humor, it is you that all of us have to thank for insisting that we work together, providing so many contexts for doing so (ARC Dialogues, etc.), and serving as role models of devotion to our collective goals and excellence in our work as advocates. Thank you, and happy birthday ARC International! Paula Ettelbrick, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
• Dear Kim and John – Congratulations on your 5th year of transformative work. It was a pleasure working with you in South Africa and I wish you many, many more great years!!! Nguru Karugu, Executive Director, Public Health Innovations, Kenya
• Dear John and Kim – I was not yet working at ABIA/SPW at the time of Rio gathering but I remember Sonia and Magaly telling me how wonderful was the group participating in the meeting. Since then, there were backlashes (the Brazilian resolution itself) but also great advancements to which I am sure the work of you and Kim (specially through the admiring combination of efficiency, respect and sensitiveness) has been key, not only to avoid other setbacks but specially to push the agenda forward in a qualified, consistent and sustainable way. For us who are not based in Geneva, for example, it has been extremely important to receive the great updates and reports you generously circulate in the listserves. Sonia is on vacation (promised herself not to open e-mails!! ) but for sure she would be joining this virtual celebration with a big cheers! Also, receive the best wishes from DAWN – the fruitful partnership with ARC (and our other great partners) have been essential to carry on the advocacy work at the Council. Big hug from Rio and looking forward to celebrating the ARC+10, +15, +++++ Angela Collett, ABIA/SPW, Brasil
• Dear John and Kim – For ILGA it has been a very productive relationship with ARC International in terms of our UN work over the last five years. We have enjoyed collaborating on numerous projects, including the ECOSOC campaign and the UPR project. The information received from you has been very useful for our membership. On a personal note I have enjoyed immensely working with Kim and John since we started working together around the Rio dialogue. From the perspective of LSVD (the German LGBT rights group where I am on the board) I can say that ARC International is held in very high esteem by the German Foreign Office – who value their lobby activity. All the best for many years to come! Philipp Braun, ILGA World
• Dear Kim and John – I am very sorry for not being able to congratulate you earlier. I was facing a very tight deadline and it is only today that I can “resurface” and do other things, including celebrating your organizational birthday. Let me join all the others in saying how much of a pleasure it has been to work with you both, and even to share with you some of the “inhuman and degrading treatment” that those of us venturing into UN spaces so often endure. For many more years and for the hope that, at some point, even if it’s only in our old age, our work will be rendered useless because the world would have become a better place (and then all of us can go and have a beach party!) Hugs and love and thanks to you both, Alejandra Sardá Mulabi- Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos
• Hey!!! Am I happy for you! and for us who have been blessed with such an enriching partnership with ARC. I have my memories of 5 years. Great five years that have contributed immensely to the changes we have observed around the globe towards the rights of LGBTI persons. Congratulations Kim! Congratulations John! Congratulans ARC!!! wishing you many more years of celebration of success in all your endeavours!!!! Dorothy Aken’ova, INCRESE Nigeria
ARC’s Unique Strengths and Contributions
• ARC works strategically to develop a vision for advancing sexual orientation and gender identity issues internationally, together with a practical plan to implement that vision;
• ARC is focused and project-driven, deliberately designed to make an effective difference;
• ARC is the only LGBT-specific NGO with a full-time presence in Geneva. We strengthen connections with mainstream human rights organizations and engage with the United Nations human rights machinery to bring year-round attention to these issues;
• ARC serves as a linking agent – we enjoy a cooperative relationship with all international NGOs working in this area to facilitate positive collaborations, and engage in enhancing capacity within domestic NGOs, recognizing that local grassroots organizing and international engagement are mutually reinforcing;
• ARC situates its work within broader sexual rights and human rights frameworks. We use an intersectional approach, to ensure gender representation, linguistic and other accessibility, linkages with other social justice movements and engagement throughout our activities by representatives from the Global South;
• ARC’s program accountability is primarily achieved through a community leadership development model that uses dialogue, collective leadership and collective empowerment.